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Tourism industry gets boost from shift to GCQ

Tourism industry gets boost from shift to GCQ

MANILA, Philippines — The tourism sector has received a last minute boost to accommodate guests during the summer season with the shift to general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said workers in the travel sector may now return to their jobs following the decision of President Duterte to loosen quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces or NCR Plus.

Tourism enterprises in Metro Manila had to close their doors to visitors when the region reverted to lockdown on March 29 to slow a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Hotels and resorts in the provinces felt the impact of the policy as well, as Metro Manila makes up more than half of the travelers they receive during the pandemic. Boracay Island recorded its lowest turnout in April since reopening to tourists in October last year.

“The easing of restrictions in NCR Plus is good news for our tourism stakeholders. This means more tourism workers will go back to work, and economic activities will continue,” Puyat said in a statement last Friday.

With the shift to GCQ with heightened restrictions, outdoor attractions in Metro Manila may now take in guests at 30 percent capacity provided they comply with minimum health standards.

Restaurants may also reopen their dine-in options to 20 percent capacity, while al fresco dining may operate at 50 percent capacity.

On the other hand, hotels with a certificate of authority to operate for staycation may now accept leisure bookings for individuals aged 18 to 65.

“We are taking every little opening possible under the current quarantine condition. Every step, big or small, will support our tourism workforce and sustain our industry,” Puyat said.

Notably, the government is running out of funds to give out to tourism workers displaced by the pandemic.

Last week Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello issued an advisory that his agency will no longer accept online applications for the P5,000 cash subsidy for tourism.

According to Bello, the Department of Labor and Employment has reached the target number of beneficiaries and is now assessing the payout for the remaining recipients.

Tourism employed about 5.7 million workers prior to the pandemic in 2019, but some 4.8 million of them were displaced by the health crisis.